Schuyler Chapin, an arts champion who served as general manager of the Metropolitan Opera and as New York City’s cultural affairs commissioner, has died. He was 86.
Chapin died Saturday at his home in Manhattan, according to All Souls Unitarian Church, where he was a member, deacon and trustee. He had been in failing health for a number of years, the church said.
Chapin ran the Metropolitan Opera for four years, beginning in 1972. During his tenure, he increased box office sales and brought in Beverly Sills for her Met debut and Danny Kaye for young people’s performances.
Before coming to the Met, Chapin was appointed in 1964 as vice president for programming at Lincoln Center, helping create the Mostly Mozart and Great Performer series during his five years there.
He also served for 11 years as dean of the Columbia U. School of the Arts, introducing its first graduate program in arts administration.
From 1994 to 2001, Chapin was cultural affairs commissioner under Mayor Rudy Giuliani. His tenure was marked by a controversy over a Brooklyn Museum exhibition that featured a black Madonna decorated with elephant dung; the city withdrew funding to the museum but that funding was later restored.
Chapin said he fell in love with music as a young boy attending Millbrook School in the Hudson Valley. He studied composition with the legendary Nadia Boulanger, who told him he had no talent and suggested he was more suited for the work of an impresario.
“I have been fortunate to make my avocation my vocation,” he once said.
Chapin never attended college. He traced his lineage to Philip Schuyler, a general under George Washington, and his father was an investment adviser.
He was born in New York City and married Elizabeth Steinway, of the Steinway pianomaking family, in 1947. They had four sons. Elizabeth Steinway died in 1992.
Three years later, Chapin married Catia Mortimer; Giuliani presided over their wedding.
Among his many other positions in the music business, Chapin was vice president in charge of classical music and theater at Columbia Records, working with the likes of Vladimir Horowitz, Igor Stravinsky and Leonard Bernstein.
He had a close relationship with Bernstein. After leaving Lincoln Center, he helped produce the conductor’s acclaimed Young People’s Concerts.
In 1990, he became VP of worldwide concert and artists activities for Steinway & Sons.
Chapin wrote three books, including his autobiography, “Musical Chairs.”
He is survived by his wife.